It is a fitting coincidence that just in time for this 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, The New York Review of Books (NYRB) has published an article by Middle East analyst Nathan Thrall urging President Obama to use his remaining time in office to pass a United Nations Security Council resolution that would define binding parameters for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Like most Middle East analysts, Thrall is apparently not interested in the longstanding and well-documented Palestinian support for terrorism, even though the pervasiveness of this support has arguably serious implications for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Thrall wants President Obama “to salvage his legacy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” asserting right at the outset that “Barack Obama entered the White House more deeply informed about and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than any incoming president before him.” He notes Obama’s friendship with the historian Rashid Khalidi and his acquaintance with Edward Said – whom he describes as “the most famous and eloquent Palestinian critic of the Oslo accords;” Thrall then goes on to recall that Obama “had offered words of encouragement to Ali Abunimah, the Palestinian activist, writer, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, and leading advocate of a one-state solution.” What Thrall prefers not to mention is the fact that Abunimah is also an ardent Hamas supporter and has only disdain for Obama. As Abunimah cockily declared in a tweet some three years ago, referencing all of Obama’s Palestinian “friends” mentioned by Thrall: “Back when this photo of me, Obama, Rashid Khalidi and Edward Said was taken, even I didn’t expect him [i.e. Obama] to be THIS bad.”
While I have no way of knowing how “deeply informed” Obama is about the “Palestinian cause,” I do know for sure that anyone who gets their information from the likes of Khalidi, Said and Abunimah will simply be brainwashed with seething hatred for Israel. But this could actually pass as being “deeply informed” about the “Palestinian cause.”
When Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the US 15 years ago, Israelis had already been living for a year with the constant threat of Palestinian terror attacks, which had intensified since September 2000 in the wake of Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state at the Camp David negotiations in July 2000. Over the course of the following decade, it turned out that Palestinians were not only enthusiastic supporters of terrorism against Israelis, but also against Americans – even though the US has not only repeatedly tried to push for negotiations that would result in a Palestinian state, but has also provided millions of dollars in bilateral annual aid to the Palestinians and is the largest single-state donor to UNRWA, i.e. the UN agency that works exclusively for the roughly 5 million Palestinians who claim inherited refugee status.
Yet, as documented in surveys by the respected Pew Research Center, Palestinians have always been the most ardent admirers of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In 2003, a stunning 72 percent of Palestinians were willing to go on record expressing “a lot” or “some confidence” that bin Laden would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.”
Palestinian “confidence” in bin Laden eroded only slowly: by 2009, 52 percent of Palestinians still trusted the Al-Qaeda leader to “do the right thing regarding world affairs;” and by 2011, when he was killed by US Special Forces in his hide-out in Pakistan, fully a third of Palestinians continued to hold bin Laden in high regard. Indeed, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned bin Laden’s assassination and deplored “the killing of an Arab holy warrior.” Even in 2014, 25 percent of Palestinians still expressed a “favorable” opinion of Al-Qaeda. This means statistically that just two years ago, one out of every four Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza had a “favorable” opinion of Al-Qaeda. Similarly, among Muslim populations surveyed by Pew, Palestinians have always been the group most supportive of suicide bombings “against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” These kinds of views are also reflected in the hate-filled sermons that are delivered fairly regularly at the Al-Aqsa mosque, including rants that anticipate Islam’s conquest of Europe and America.
One would expect a professional Middle East analyst like Thrall to be familiar with these depressing numbers. But perhaps he thinks that the Middle East would be a better place if there was a state for people who, in the wake of 9/11, would have loved to elect bin Laden as their trusted leader and who remain highly supportive of killing civilians “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.”
Personally, I would be overjoyed if someone came up with a solution that would enable Israel to disentangle itself as thoroughly as possible from the Palestinian quagmire, but it is precisely Palestinian extremism that makes this so desirable and impossible at the same time.